OIG Report Identifies Issues With US-VISIT

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a report that identifies issues with the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. The program processes and stores biometric data, such as fingerprints and photographs, that are collected from other federal agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The information collected is provided to other federal agencies and can be used to verify the identities of people entering the United States. The information is provided by several immigration-related agencies, collected and analyzed by US-VISIT, and then supplied to border management, immigration, law enforcement and intelligence agencies in order to identify potential security threats.

According to US-VISIT, each time a visitor passes through a U.S. port of entry, biometric data is checked against a database of 6.4 million known or suspected criminals, terrorists or immigration violators as identified either by U.S. officials or by Interpol. The OIG review has identified problems with the system.

The OIG review uncovered 825,000 instances where one set of fingerprints was associated with more than one set of biographic information. The incorrect information included misspelled names and transposed birth dates as well as completely different names and birth dates. Some of these cases may involve mistakes made at the data collection point, but in other cases, the person involved may have supplied a false name or birth date. Many of these individuals may be attempting to overstay their immigrant or visitor visas. US-VISIT supplies information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to apprehend these individuals.

The OIG report acknowledged that the 825,000 data discrepancies – relating to about 375,000 individuals – represent 0.2 percent of the total, but maintained that the total number – hundreds of thousands of discrepancies – made the data significant.

According to the report, most of the discrepancies in biometric data can be accounted for by data entry errors. There were significant examples of individuals supplying false information, such as different names and dates of birth, in an attempt to enter the United States. Many of these individuals attempted to enter the U.S. multiple times using different identities. In one case, the same biometric data was connected to nine different names and birth dates over the course of ten different attempts to enter the U.S.

The OIG recommended that the Director of US-VISIT review cases of data inconsistency and provide information about individuals using false biographic data to law enforcement.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com